What turned Fortune into a baby name in the 1910s?

Actress Kathlyn Williams (1879-1960)
Kathlyn Williams (as Fortune Chedsoye)

The word Fortune first appeared in the U.S. baby name data — both as a boy name and as a girl name — in the middle of the 1910s:

Boys named FortuneGirls named Fortune

We can see a similar increase in the usage of Fortune in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) data:

  • 1917: 6 people with the first name Fortune
  • 1916: 10 people with the first name Fortune
  • 1915: 9 people with the first name Fortune
  • 1914: 2 people with the first name Fortune
  • 1913: 3 people with the first name Fortune

So, what was the influence?

My guess is the silent film The Carpet from Bagdad, which came out in May of 1915. One of the main characters was a woman named Fortune Chedsoye (played by actress Kathlyn Williams).

A scene from the silent film "The Carpet from Bagdad" (1915).
A scene from “The Carpet from Bagdad

According to an advertisement for the film, The Carpet from Bagdad told the story of “how a precious prayer-rug was boldly snatched from the innermost shrine of a sacred Mosque, passed from hand to hand, and of how, in its travels the rug imperiled the lives of two men and a beautiful young woman.”

Movie-going audiences would have seen Fortune’s name on-screen repeatedly, due to the intertitles.

The film was based on the novel The Carpet from Bagdad (1911) by Harold MacGrath.

It was thought to be lost until one of the film’s five reels was salvaged from the wreck of the RMS Lusitania (which sank in May of 1915).

What are your thoughts on Fortune as a personal name?


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